October 21st: Coffee Free, Back to Running, and Eating More but Different
The No Coffee Life
Getting a lot of questions on my decision to cut coffee out of my diet for the past ~50 days in addition to severely limiting caffeine overall. While I hope to write more in depth about this I wanted to give a brief update.
Big caveat: I am not here to say that coffee is not healthy. There are potent antioxidants and benefits that this drink likely has. I am saying though that constant use of caffeine, in coffee and otherwise, can have negative repercussions.
Why did I do it?
Through the pandemic and isolation at home the Nespresso machine was a saving grace + when you’re on the road for work crossing time zones those hotel rooms come coffee stacked. Not to mention the ever looming “coffee meeting”. Over the past few years I noticed my coffee habit had become more consistent so I wanted to explore what would happen when I stopped.
Caffeine is a drug and if you become so sensitized to it then the benefits reach a cap.
Yes caffeine is very much a drug with very much real pros and cons. We’ve all become accustomed to the presence of caffeine in our life but when you take stock of just how prevalent it is you realize many Americans are abusing it. The infatuation with the “don’t talk to me before I’ve had my coffee” culture is odd when you zoom out, that you need that morning fix to then be able to relate to the rest of the world. No, I’m not suggesting we are addicts in any way but what I am suggesting is when you need a drug to feel normal then something ain’t right.
While the average amount of caffeine taken in is a little under 200 mg a day, the top 10% of drinkers take in an average of 380 mg a day. The upper suggested limit is 400 mg a day so many individuals are teetering close and this limit is easy to surpass with many common energy drinks having above this amount.
The difficulty with the previous quantification though is that it really doesn’t tell us anything. Where is all this caffeine coming from (coffee drinks themselves vary widely and there are also other places, like chocolate, people don’t realize they get caffeine from). Does caffeine actually give us energy ( spoiler: no it just masks our fatigue), what are the actual benefits of this drug, how does tolerance vary between indiviuals, and how do you use it appropriately for best results? I’m going to get into that next time.
How do I feel since cutting caffeine out?
I am less anxious, I feel more grounded in my body, plus my sleep/wake cycle seems to have evened out. I generally think I am sensitive to caffeine and coupled with the fact I sweat a lot ha it might have disturbed my micronutrient status. I do admittedly miss the buzz from caffeine a bit but I keep telling myself goodbye does not mean forever and I look forward to welcoming back that morning cup soon.
Excited to talk more about this caffeine conundrum in a future, and more robust, dive.
When you are busy the thing is to not let workouts become another negative stress. This is the way I look at it — keep all workouts under an hour and if your body is telling you that you need a break, take it. However, don’t use this constantly as a crutch because for whatever reason when you are feeling a bit tired movement can actually help re-energize you. Nobody really knows why, could it be the increased blood flow oxygenating the brain and body? That when you use stored energy in the body it then spurs the body on to refuel and create more? Regardless it does work, what Newton didn’t realize is that body in motion seems to create MORE energy/motion, at least subjectively.
I always find solace in running — the act of moving forward always seems to let me mind know that we can get over mental blocks. Here are a few of my favorite running workouts from the past few weeks
Run 200 meters (.125) at an intensity of 8. Rest 60 seconds
Run 400 meters (.25 miles) at an intensity of 6.5. Rest 75–90 seconds.
15 minutes mobility/tissue floss
5 minute jump rope
10 minute easy treadmill run
5 minute jump rope
30 minute easy recovery run
3x30 second striders
10 minutes of core
800 meters (.5 miles) @interval style
Run the curve (100 meters or 15–20 seconds hard)
Recover straightaways (100 meters or 30–40 seconds)
Rest 75 seconds
400 meters (.25 miles) @ moderate pace. Scale of 1–10 @6–7 or 5K pace
Rest 60 seconds
200 meters (.125 miles) @hard effort. 1–10 @8/9. Or faster than mile pace.
Rest 45 seconds
AGAIN 200 meters (.125 miles) @hard effort. 1–10 @8/9. Or faster than mile pace.
Rest 2 minutes
Repeat from 800 meters.
If running ain’t your thing, totally fine. My rule of thumb for workouts is pretty simple — strength minimum once a week, endurance/conditioning a few times a week, and a little bit of mobility/general movement daily. It is a skeleton that will produce results without becoming overwhelming.
Limiting caffeine has shown me is that my energy levels are strongly correlated to actually my caloric intake — which makes sense because your body gets proper energy from the food you intake. Calories are literally a measurement of that energy, the “heat” you can get from food when you start to break it down.
But my diet has been pretty straight forward. I don’t get lost in the hub-bub of all the “noise” in diet culture and really focus on cooking my own meals, staying away from overly processed foods, and adding in more plant oriented fats. But here is what I’ve been focusing more on as of late below that you might find interesting.
Drinking More Water
I pulled up to my cardiologist the other day to get a few things with my heart checked and she made an off hand comment about how every cell in the body gives off an electrical charge and this is why I needed to drink more water. I had always known this charge component of the cell but that comment coupled with the water finally made electrolytes makes sense to me in a way that was glaringly obvious outside of the constant sports marketing. Each of our cells give off an electrical charge and this is connected to the “electrolyte” status in the body which is basically certain minerals like ( sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium etc) and understanding the role that this micronutrients play in our overall health. Is it, especially if you are under stress and workout a lot, that all the “electrolyte” hype is just misplaced through marketing but not incorrect? Couple this with Bruce Ames theory on triage and vitamin status in the body I am taking a closer look at both my diet and supplementation.
As a kid I loved oatmeal but as I got older I realized I can’t eat as much. Maybe it is blood sugar fluctuations or whatever but I’ve been using it as a canvas to create simple nutrient dense bowls for intake in the morning. Easy way to add in protein sources (hemp seeds, chia seeds), healthy fats, and an additional touch of sweetness through fruit instead of sugar that has me feeling ready to go in the AM without the coffee.
Key: If you want to add oatmeal back into your diet, don’t get the quick cook or the instant. It is basically stripped of certain components that will keep you satiated and provide health benefits.
I am a firm believe that if you limit or abstain from animal based foods unless you are extremely active you need to look into a low net-carb diet. The key here is low-NET carb not simply low carb. Low-net carb is basically when you look at the carbohydrate source and the amount of fiber it has in it as well. I will openly admit that this is not a standardized measurement in nutrition science. Due to this, unfortunately, many food companies use this as a scam to also include excess sugar alcohols in products and promote foods that aren’t nutrient dense or health promoting as such.
Possibly another way to frame this is looking at it from the perspective of “isolated” carbs or simply carbohydrates. When you eat a plant based diet it is likely you will find protein sources also have carbohydrates included with them, especially beans. For that reason I don’t think it makes sense to get additional isolated sources of carbohydrates like rice, breads, etc unless you are overly active and need that as an energy source. Instead utilize more nutrient rich sources such as vegetables and fruits that have complexity to provide you with added benefits.. This reframe has proved beneficial for me in not just maintaining my body composition as my work responsibilities have me at a desk more often but also keeping my energy levels stable.